Washington Embraces New Speak
Surely you will be as relieved as I was to learn that the term “manhole cover” survived the purge. Try as they might, the finest leftwing minds in the business could not concoct a suitable, gender neutral, non-oppressive replacement for those two words. Although I have no doubt that, somewhere, a state employed drone is toiling away somewhere still trying to crack that stubborn nut.
For the past six years, the state of Washington has been cleansing its books of 40,000 offensive, sexist terms that have kept women’s studies majors from enjoying a good night’s sleep. As the drones uncovered intolerable sexist language such as “freshman” or “fisherman,” the laws of the state were rewritten and re-passed by the legislature for the governor’s signature.
This year the final result was signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee, and, as you read this, Washington has been transformed into a dominion of gender-neutrality.
Never again will elementary school pupils be forced to improve their penmanship. Henceforth, their scrawls will be known as “handwriting.” Although, as one who has to read and grade the work of recent high school graduates, I’m not at all convinced that Washington’s schools teach very much of anything associated with communicating in the English language anymore.
After wiping the sweat off her brow, state Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles (a Democrat as I’m certain you guessed) boasted that, "This was a much larger effort than I had envisioned.” Among the things she learned during her journey of discovery was that, “Mankind means man and woman."
She would have already known that if those who had been charged many years ago with the responsibility of providing her with an education had done a better job.
The effort to de-sexify the law apparently put down its roots all the way back in 1983, when that year’s legislature passed a law dictating that all current and future state laws undergo this purification. Back then, most who voted for it recognized it as the porcine lipstick that it was and ignored it. It took another 24 years before a legislature was seated that was kooky enough to take it seriously. Beginning in 2007, about the time that the Great Recession struck, the state, which had no other urgent business requiring its attention, began the cleansing process.
And so now such oppressive terms as “journeyman plumber” have been replaced by the awkward sounding word jumble, “journey-level plumber.”
The effort has been hailed from the predictable peanut galleries. Liz Watson of the National Women’s Law Center praised the legislation, reminding everyone that “Words matter, this is important in changing hearts and minds.”
Yes, they mattered very much to Big Brother as I recall. For those of you who have not read George Orwell’s book “1984,” the totalitarian government rewrote the entire language so that it would be impossible for the people to think impure thoughts.
Orwell did not have to make this up. He only had to observe the behavior of the Labour Party’s governance of his home country, Great Britain. After the socialist Labourites defeated Winston Churchill’s Conservatives in 1945, the new prime minister, Clement Attlee, set about nationalizing industry after industry, plunging Great Britain into a second Great Depression. And he also set about replacing words and terms in the English language with words that he felt were less oppressive.
Clement Attlee’s governance created record numbers of poor. So they became the “lower income group.” Freezing wages to combat inflation was euphemized to “arresting increases in personal income.” The word “home” was replaced with “accommodation unit.” The Labourites saw it as less traumatic if you lost your accommodation unit because you had slipped into a lower income group thanks to the government arresting increases in your personal income.
Imagine Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, clicking the heels of her ruby slippers together while reciting, “There’s no place like my accommodation unit.”
In truth, I doubt that Liz Watson, Jeanne Kohl-Welles, or any of the others who thought that a struggling, cash-strapped state should invest resources into this mummer’s farce will sleep any more comfortably tonight than they did before the Washington state legal code had been decontaminated of its icky words. The sad truth is that the chronically indignant are congenitally incapable of happiness. Making everyone else unhappy is their only consolation.
But they’ll never understand that. They’ll blame it on the stubborn persistence of words like “manhole cover.”